Excerpt from the book “The Truth About Fear and Depression” by Heather Denkmire

A mental disorder that causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, and ability to function, also known as manic-depressive disorder. Everyone experiences mood swings–one minute feeling great and the next feeling upset. These are normal reactions to life. Unlike most people, however, those who have bipolar disorder experience severe emotional swings. For people who have bipolar disorder, “highs” are periods of mania, or manic episodes, and “lows” are periods of depression, or depressive episodes. These swings can be severe, ranging from extreme energy to deep despair. The symptoms are so intense they can result in troubled relationships, poor job or school performance, and even suicide. Like diabetes or heart disease, bipolar disorder is a long-term illness that must be carefully managed by a medical professional throughout a person’s life. It almost always can be treated, and people with this illness can lead full and productive lives.

Types and Symptoms

Most people with bipolar disorder are free of symptoms, however, one-third of suffers always have some symptoms.

A manic episode is diagnosed if an elevated mood occurs with three or more of the following symptoms most of the day, nearly every day, or for one week or longer. If the mood is irritable, four additional symptoms must be present. According to the Ntional Institute of Mental Health, the signs and symptoms of mania include:

  • increased energy, activity, and restlessness
  • excessively “high”, exaggerated good mood
  • extreme irritability
  • racing thoughts and talking very fast, jumping from one idea to another
  • distractibility, can’t concentrate well
  • little sleep needed
  • unrealistic beliefs in one’s abilities and powers
  • poor judgment
  • spending sprees
  • a lasting period of behavior that is different from usual
  • increased sexual drive
  • abuse of drugs, particularly cocaine, alcohol, and sleeping medications
  • provocative, intrusive and aggressive behavior
  • denial that anything is wrong

A depressive episode is diagnosed if five or more of the following symptoms last most of the day, nearly every day, for a period of two weeks or longer. Those signs and symptoms may include:

  • lasting sad, anxious, or empty mood
  • feelings of hopelessness or pessimism
  • feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
  • loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed
  • decreased energy, a feeling of fatigue or of being “slowed down”
  • difficulty concentrating, remembering, making decisions
  • restlessness or irritability
  • sleeping too much, or can’t sleep
  • change in appetite and/or unintended weight loss or gain
  • chronic pain or other persistent bodily symptoms that are not caused by physical illness or injury
  • thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts

Patterns and severity of symptoms, or episodes, of highs and lows, determine the various types of bipolar disorder.